Angels Camp and Murphys

Ten miles southeast of San Andreas and three or four miles from Carson Hill sat Angels Camp, named for Henry and George Angel who had accompanied James Carson south from Weber Creek. A lot of placer gold was found in Angels Creek and the gulches and flats around it. In 1852 two brothers named Winter washed nine thousand dollars in gold through a common sluice from a plot of two hundred square feet of surface earth. Below the dirt they came to a layer of limestone containing gold mixed with sulfur that, when crushed and worked like quartz, yielded as much as $200 per ton, but one specimen from this lead, when sent to London for assay, was said to be worth $3500 per ton.

Angels Hotel Angels Camp CA

Like so many other mining sites the placer gold played out early but when quartz leads were found the town continued to prosper for decades, producing over $20 million dollars in gold. And when the stamp mills finally stopped pounding many residents couldn’t sleep. The silence was too loud. The town has gained lasting fame from Mark Twain who first heard the famous story of ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’ in the Angels Hotel.

It soon became common practice around Angels Camp for miners to keep an old trunk filled with their best specimens of ore and gold bearing rock somewhere in their cabin so that they could pull out a particularly good sample on special occasions and declare it to be worth twenty or thirty thousand dollars a ton. They would apply a magnifying glass to the rock and dream of visits to European monarchs who would treat them as royalty, and for a time this dream would make them happier that any reality ever could.

Murphys 1853

On the same stream as Angels Camp and eight or ten miles northeast lay Murphys, named for John and Daniel Murphy who came to California in 1844 with the first wagon train to make it across the Sierra. Most of the gold here was found in the bed of the creek and by pulling out pay dirt from in between limestone boulders some twenty to thirty feet below the surface, the dirt then raised by a derrick powered by horses and swung around and dumped into a sluice. When a channel some thirty feet deep and below the bedrock was constructed, the sluices could now be set below the ore to be washed thus eliminating the need for the derrick. The main water supply came from a few miles west of the famous grove of sequoias called Calaveras Big Trees.



  1. Your blogs are so interesting, John! Especially with the old photos and a video interspersed with the text.

    No wonder people dreamed of gold and traveled thousands of miles to the gold fields, with yields like those possible. No wonder people caught gold fever, too.

    As an author of these tales, don’t you find it difficult to pick and choose? Stories like nuggets pave these articles.

    • I’m glad you like the stories, Carol. I know you’ve been bitten by the gold bug too.

      The western saloon, Wells Fargo, and the transcontinental railroad all came about because of the California gold rush. Then there is the Comstock Lode and mining in Nevada, Montana, the Dakotas, Colorado. Heck you name it, wherever there is gold and silver there are truckloads of powerful tales that beg to be told. So why aren’t people telling them? I do what I can and so do you. There is room for a lot more good writers and there is always a need for interested readers.

      Do you know anyone who likes gold?

  2. Of course if you talk about Twain I am so happy. This was a great piece. I admire you and Carol both for telling the stories and creating such beautiful fiction from fact. It is on my to do list, but I seem to get stuck writing on the history and that can be pretty dry, but I do love it.

    • It’s hard to talk about Angel’s Camp and not mention Twain but the area was, and still is, a vibrant place. I love the history, Doris. Someone has to keep it alive. Our past is so important.

  3. Agreed. Thanks for keeping the stories alive.

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